For those of you keeping score at home, in the space of 30 minutes Friday Dale Brown, who can, as they say, really fill it up notebook-wise, touched briefly, and in a rather interplanetary manner, on the following subjects: Imelda Marcos, Muhammad Ali, oriental mysticism, the Donner Pass, Job, Joan of Arc, wolverines and badgers, the Pope, Mormon testimony, comedian Steve Martin, David and Goliath, ESP, Auburn basketball coach Sonny Smith, Mother Teresa, the Ship of Hope floating hospital, Lawrence Welk, Cinderella, Bear Bryant, the Tatra Mountains in the Balkans, John Wooden, Roger Maris, Rasputin, Dick Vitale and the Berlin Wall. (Not all references will be covered here. The annotated version and exercise video will follow at a later date.)
I'm sure he knew exactly what he was talking about. Unfortunately, I didn't. It's like we started off in the same car, but then he turned off at an exit and I somehow kept right on going without him. I'm trusting it will all work out in the end. Let me put it this way: If you were to try and diagram one of Brown's sentences, it would come out looking sort of like the NCAA 64-team draw. More to the point, if he were a game show I'm not sure I'd want to know what was behind curtain No. 3.
Permit me this one digression to illustrate how tough it is to connect the dots with Dale Brown. Peter Finney, a New Orleans columnist, once called Brown on the phone to ask about the LSU starting lineup, and five minutes later Brown was telling him why we had to invade Cuba.
Good talking to you, too, Dale.
Have a nice day, and arrive home safely.
"There are two statements I'd like to make," Brown began. "I'd like to relay to people who watch, read and hear: What these LSU kids have done is testimony to the human spirit. I'm gratified we're here. One of the biggest reasons is I think it shows that down-and-outers and underdogs can get where they want to . . . America's a wonderful place, and I'm an example of what America is made of. My only teacher was the sidewalks and the streets and a wonderful mother who had a great philosophy of life. It's an inspiration to a lot of people that I got here as a coach without having to apple polish or brown nose. I made it. And I did it my way."
Having said that, Brown then ended his opening statement saying: "By the way, Imelda Marcos said to tell you all hello."
I wrote down the questions that were asked of Brown. I wrote down the answers he gave. I think it'd be fun if I gave you the answers and had you guess the questions, like Karnak does.
"I wear my feelings through my mouth." (And while we're on the subject of clothing:) "Some people say I should be fitted for a straitjacket."
"The odds aren't what made this country great. Donner Pass wasn't good odds. But they made it . . . We were picked to finish 10th in the SEC. That is so far down the ladder that if you're 10th in the SEC, you're first in the Mexican League."
"I've known for a long time that image and reputation aren't real. Character is what you are. Character is what you are when you're up in the Tatra Mountains with just your wife and your horse. I know what I am. There have been an awful lot of charlatans. Rasputin had a terrific image, but he was a phony."
"Two things that put you in an insane asylum are delusions of grandeur and delusions of persecution. I'm not a martyr. I won't replace Joan of Arc. I am my brother's keeper. But I'm not joining Mother Teresa. I'm not going on the Ship of Hope."
Dale Brown has been described in a lot of ways. He has been praised as an honest, caring, daring man who wants to reform a diseased institution. He has been criticized as a self-promoting, sanctimonious, hypocritical cheater who flouts the very rules he publicly espouses. Without taking sides, there are times when it seems like he's out there where the buses don't run. Loris Smith, who manages the Meadowlands complex, grew up with Brown in North Dakota and has been a good, close friend for almost 40 years. He says that Brown is "a consummate salesman," and that his essential message is: "You can get kicked, and you can get knocked down. But sooner or later you get your turn at bat, and when you do, keep swinging."
They are on to him, you know. Oh yes, they know how very much he wants to keep swinging. Friday, after talking to reporters for 15 minutes or so, Brown disappeared into a small room to tape a TV interview. For a while there was panic that Brown would not reemerge. An LSU aide, Ed Atlas, calmed all fears, smiling at the reporters and saying confidently: "Are you kidding me? He'd never turn down this opportunity." Of course, he didn't. He came out and talked about Lawrence Welk and Steve Martin and wolverines and David and Goliath and, well, you've got the list. He was in the tunnel, and in the stands above him some LSU students had gathered, and they were yelling at the reporters to ask Brown about Qaddafi and Nicaragua. "Ask him. He'll have a comment. He has a comment on everything," they said. One of them called out to him: "Hey Coach, what about Qaddafi?" And Brown, undoubtedly answering something else, said it would be easier to get over the Berlin Wall than to get into the LSU hotel tonight, which, after a while, made perfect sense.